Entrepreneurism in New Orleans is a many-cultured thing.
Latinos are New Orleans’ fastest-growing population group – and Latino-owned businesses are beginning to grow at a similar rate.
While Hispanic entrepreneurs may remain constrained by a lack of access to resources – specifically access to business information and capital – and since language and cultural barriers serve as additional hurdles, two local organizations are reaching out to help entrepreneurial Latinos launch their dreams.
Accion Louisiana, an extension of Accion Texas Inc., the nation’s largest microlender, has partnered with Hispanic community service leader Puentes New Orleans to increase access to capital for emerging entrepreneurs. Over the past year, Accion Louisiana has lent more than $260,000 to Latino-owned businesses in Greater New Orleans.
“These business owners face many challenges, beyond limited access to entrepreneurial resources,” explains Lindsey Navarro, director of business support for Accion Louisiana.
“There is a huge language barrier. Even the most basic information, such as how to register a business, or even apply for an occupational license or basic permit, is not readily available in Spanish.”
Navarro says that most business owners want to operate legitimately, but don’t know what the first steps should be.
“We often find ourselves educating the community about the differences in the way businesses are formalized and operated in the U.S. compared to how it is done in Latin America,” she says.
Similarly, Puentes’ “Fuerza Economica” small business program focuses on providing technical support and education to startups, as well as existing Latino-owned businesses.
This support includes one-on-one technical assistance, trainings and industry-specific workshops.
Ofelia Posas emigrated from Honduras in 2009, and after six months of living in New Orleans, she began offering services as a beauty consultant.
“Without the financial support and training Accion gave me, I could not have achieved my business goals,” she says. “I just received my third loan, which I used to purchase inventory. As a result of having access to these resources, my sales have increased, and my team is steadily growing.”
Posas now leads a team of 50 beauty consultants. Like many of her fellow Latino entrepreneurs, she is providing significant work opportunities for her community.
Local Latino-operated businesses run the gamut from micro-enterprises like food trucks to major corporate players like Pan-American Life Insurance Group. In addition to their cultural heritage, the common thread they seem to share is reliability: according to Accion’s Navarro, only one of their 40-plus loans has defaulted.
Like the city itself, business in New Orleans has always reflected a unique mix of cultures. Now we can add Latino emprendedores to the many flavors of our economic gumbo.
Accion Louisiana offers loans and technical resources to new and existing small businesses. Contact Lindsey Navarro, director of business support, at (504) 410-6162, or
Puentes New Orleans offers training and technical assistance for new and existing small businesses. Contact Lisa Reyes, small business program coordinator, at (504) 821-7228, or
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, located in New Orleans, is a network of Latino-operated businesses and offers many business support services. Call (504) 885-4262 or email email@example.com.